Because I knew I was going to be out of town all week, I finished the sermon well before last Tuesday’s earthquake in Haiti. But at 5:00 on Sunday morning I was up having coffee, adding these paragraphs at the end:
This morning I’m thinking about the people of Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. For so long now it seems that the only abundance they have known is an abundance of trouble. After Tuesday’s earthquake a journalist said, “I was here during the 2008 hurricanes that left thousands dead and thousands and thousands homeless, and that felt like the Apocalypse. But that pales in comparison to this.” In the aftermath of this horrific tragedy the Rev. Pat Robertson has suggested that the Haitians are cursed because of a pact their ancestors supposedly made with the Devil two centuries ago. “Ever since,” he said, “they have been cursed by one thing after the other.” Although he didn’t go so far as to say that this earthquake was God’s wrath poured out on the people of Haiti what else could they infer? Robertson subscribes to a kind of Old Testament theology that makes every act an act of God, good or bad. If San Francisco fell into the ocean this afternoon, he would be on television tomorrow, telling us why. But I hope the people of Haiti will won’t look at things the way he does. I hope they can understand as we do that bad things happen to good people, sometimes to the best people we know, and for no apparent reason. When Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus said, “It wasn’t this man or his parents. It was so the works of God could be seen” (John 9:3).
I hope that’s what happens in Haiti. I hope those people can understand that earthquakes happen not because God is angry, but because the living earth is still shifting and moving. I hope they will see this one for the natural disaster that it is, but see in our response to this disaster the “works of God.” As rescue workers come from this country and others, as relief flows into the ruined city of Port-au-Prince, as it comes with an abundance unlike anything the Haitians have ever witnessed may they see it as a sign—not a sign of God’s judgment, but of God’s grace. May they sense that the door between heaven and earth has been opened just a crack, and may they see light seeping in around the edges.